By Jeremy Cleland
Sure, YouTube is full of funny cat videos that my 5-year-old son obsesses over. The trouble is, the popular video-sharing site can also inadvertently expose him to videos that aren’t exactly G-rated.
That’s why I was excited to hear about the new YouTube Kids app for iOS and Android tablets and smartphones. As I had hoped, the new app promises to enable my kid to watch shows that we both can enjoy, while limiting the risk that he’ll see something for adult-eyes only.
Here’s are the top five things to know about the YouTube Kids app before you download:
No 1: Videos are age appropriate.
Your kids can stream videos in four categories—shows, music, learning, and explore—including popular titles like Sesame Street, DreamWorksTV, Thomas & Friends, and Talking Tom. However, YouTube Kids selections are based on an algorithm and not pre-screened by a review team.
No. 2: You can set time limits.
No more having to say “two more minutes!” The app allows you to set a timer, and the app will lock when the time is up.
No. 3: You can mute sounds.
This, I’ve been waiting for: The app allows you to turn off background music and sound effects. This means your kids can keep watching their favorite shows and you can get some peace and quite.
No. 4: Better search capabilities.
According the official Google blog, you can “search for videos of particular interest to your family, like how to build a model volcano, math tutorials, the amazing (and endless) world of trains—and everything in between.” That said, you can also disable the search feature if you only want your kids to access the pre-selected videos available on the home screen.
No. 5: It’s not foolproof … yet.
The official blog mentions examples of 3- or 4-year-olds accessing videos via the
app. However, I couldn’t find an official age range for the app on YouTube or
the app download pages. And the app will still feature ads. So like any other app
you might want to purchase, check it out thoroughly before you cut your kids
loose on it … I know I will.
Jeremy Cleland has been a spokesperson for several Silicon Valley startups, like Tesla Motors, and spearheaded global stories about technology featured in media like Vice, Time magazine, Forbes and Wired.com. He’s also the dad to a 5-year-old who is already more tech-savvy than him.